Image Credit: Raph_PH
Ricky Gervais gave a controversial speech at the Golden Globes on 5 January, which showed just how deluded Hollywood is about its own hypocrisy. Gervais highlighted this skillfully in his speech.
As a result of the film industry’s obsession with appearing woke and living or dying by what is said about them on Twitter, it is not surprising that Gervais’ jokes were regarded as an admission of his political leaning. Jokes are just that, jokes. When someone makes one, it is not meant to be taken literally. They can indeed allude to topics which need talking about, but are not meant as anything more than a conversation starter on difficult topics.
Take Gervais’ joke about Hollywood’s lack of diversity regarding people of colour, an issue which the recent Oscar nominations show still blights Hollywood. Regardless of who you cast or how many Black Panthers are made, it does not equate to solving the structural diversity issue in the film industry. Gervais has faced attacks on social media because if you say anything on a platform today which goes against the woke movement you are immediately considered to be the scum of the earth, even if you are highlighting important issues.
"We want diversity" seems to stop at diversity of opinion when faced with an uncomfortable truth which does not fit certain narrow views of the world. What one can and cannot say in the public sphere often gets dictated by those who shout the loudest, and not those who take a level-headed approach to issues. We live in an echo chamber in which our views are constantly being reaffirmed. This leads to people thinking that any view contrary to their own narrow mindset is automatically wrong. As Gervais found out, this means backlash from many actors within the left-leaning media and Twitter vigilantes.
Twitter activism is a dangerous route to go down when deciding what is right or wrong; people on the internet are not the best examples of morality. This has been highlighted in a recent incident involving The Guardian columnist and Corbyn cheerleader Owen Jones and The Times columnist and television presenter Giles Coren. In an article in The Times on 31 December 2019, Coren contributed to a piece where journalists at the paper shared their political predictions for this year.
In this piece Coren said: “My prediction for next year is Owen Jones getting a peerage in Corbyn’s resignation honours (does he get a go at that?) and becoming a fat old lord getting smashed on madeira in the morning and chasing young researchers with tight bottoms up and down the corridors all afternoon.”
In response, Jones took to Twitter to address his million followers: “Not exactly subtle homophobia being printed by The Times, is it?” This comment by Jones caused huge backlash against Coren which resulted in some of Jones’ supporters hunting down Coren’s address and threatening to come around to his house in person. To this Coren must have thought that these comments were not credible and, just like jokes, not to be taken at face value. However, these threats culminated in activists going to Coren’s house and harassing his wife and children on 6 January.
How does this incident of misguided outrage and frenzy which led to a family being harassed link to Gervais’ speech? Both made comments which were intended as jokes, and so not meant to be taken as gospel, both were highlighting serious issues which need to be talked about in the criticised sectors, and both have received the wrath of the left for their comments.
I’m not saying that Gervais or Coren were in the right or have the moral high ground here, or that the woke movement is wrong. What I am saying is that the continued attacks by a radical left on those who say anything that is in the slightest bit ‘unwoke’ is the wrong way to gain further progress in society.
For progression to occur, both sides of the argument need to be listened to and not shouted over. Most important is this: a joke is meant as a joke 99.9 per cent of the time, and as Gervais said in his speech: “Remember, they're just jokes”.
Comedy is about growth; some jokes that comedians made 10 years ago obviously would not be found funny by the moral standards of today's society. But to attack Gervais and his comedy for not being 'woke' enough takes away the essence of what comedy is supposed to be. Take jokes as such: a form of entertainment, and not as some malicious attempt to destroy all the progress society has made.